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Playing it safe? Managerial preferences, risk, and agency conflicts

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  • Gormley, Todd A.
  • Matsa, David A.

Abstract

This article examines managers’ incentive to play it safe. We find that, after managers are insulated by the adoption of an antitakeover law, they take value-destroying actions that reduce their firms’ stock volatility and risk of distress. To illustrate one such action, we show that managers undertake diversifying acquisitions that target firms likely to reduce risk, have negative announcement returns, and are concentrated among firms with managers who gain the most from reducing risk. Our findings suggest that instruments typically used to motivate managers, such as greater financial leverage and larger ownership stakes, exacerbate risk-related agency challenges.

Suggested Citation

  • Gormley, Todd A. & Matsa, David A., 2016. "Playing it safe? Managerial preferences, risk, and agency conflicts," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(3), pages 431-455.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:122:y:2016:i:3:p:431-455
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jfineco.2016.08.002
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Risk; Managerial preferences; Agency conflicts; Acquisitions;

    JEL classification:

    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law

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